As I see only shops on this thoroughfare, I assumed there was some kind of underground bankers’ burrow, where they operate the FTSE with gold-plated joysticks. However, after visiting Amarone, one of the Di Maggio’s Group restaurants, I think I may have stumbled upon a nerve centre.
The Capital Building, on the Harvey Nichols end of George Street, is a monolithic Art Deco-style venue that houses various corporate institutions, as well as this eight-month-old Italian-style eatery on the ground floor.
It may have once been a bank. If you head downstairs to the toilets, you’ll find a safe and a vault (see, I AM Sherlock).
On the main floor, there is a wood-fired pizza oven behind a bar area, marble pillars and a cathedral-height ceiling with draped cord chandeliers.
My partner, Rolf, and I were seated in a black leather booth, beside a wall of Murano glass objects displayed behind glass panels. The vase nearest us resembled a psychedelic interpretation of Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream. A bad omen? Perhaps.
Although, starters weren’t awful. My parfait di pollo (£6.95) featured a livery sandcastle of smooth pâté, which was fine – if a bit too chilled, and watery, thanks to the jammy “apple and thyme chutney” that had been dolloped on top. Also, as a decent-sized helping, it could have done with more than three crunchy crostini on the side.
Rolf’s first course was OK too. There were four of the cappesante con pancetta (£7.95), aka scallops in blankets, each of which was pressed onto a blob of sundried tomato pesto. These salty morsels tasted fine, but they were extremely petite (the bivalve equivalent of a human size zero).
Things went black white black white (a penguin rolling swiftly downhill) from then on.
The tagliolini all’uovo e balsamico (£9.45) was stupidly acidic. I think it was the combination of sundried tomatoes and too much of a less-than-subtle balsamic vinegar that had rendered the flavour of all ingredients – pancetta chunks, pinenuts and sliced porcini mushrooms – indistinguishable from each other. I wanted to take the pasta ribbons to the sink, and rinse them off. It was like being force fed an entire jar of Branston pickle.
Luckily I could fill up on our foccacia lucca (£6.95), which was topped with cubes of pancetta, mozzarella, sliced potato and nibs of red onion. The bready base was good – fresh and yeasty, with a bubbly crispy edge. However, the topping was very bland and in dire need of garlic, rosemary or bog-standard salt.
Not great, and neither was Rolf’s main of branzino allo zafferano (£16.95). The chunky fillet of sea bass itself was nicely cooked, with a zingy stuffing of chives and orange zest. On its own, fine. It was its accompaniment – an oddly sweet sauce, which tasted like melted ice-cream – that was inedible.
My dining partner had to use the mound of canary yellow saffron risotto (more like boil-in-the-bag rice), to create a flood barrier between the fish and the ocean of pink jus.
Only sugar could save us, so I went for the semifreddo al cioccolato (£5.75), which was a cool and smooth mound of Nutella-esque sweetness. Fine.
Rolf’s pud – the tortino di formaggio (£5.45), or cheesecake – was a gelatinous, honey-spiked mixture atop a thin base of crushed ginger biscuits. It was adequate, but didn’t redeem the meal.
Such a shame, as some of Di Maggio’s other ventures are great – Glasgow’s Barolo Grill, for example, and the nearby Cafe Andaluz ain’t half bad.
However, in this vicinity, I’m not sure why diners wouldn’t rather trot along to Martin Wishart’s brasserie, The Honours (affordable lunchtime two course Prix Fixe menu, £17.50) – or, if they fancied proper Italian food, Centotre (amazing pasta).
Unless, of course, they have money to burn.
• How much?
Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £59.45
• Contact Amarone: 0131-553 1171, click here to visit www.amaronerestaurant.co.uk
Three to Try
Rocca Bar & Grill
The Links, St Andrews (01334 472549), click here to visit www.roccagrill.com
The food at this eatery overlooking the Old Course has a Scottish Italian vibe, with dishes such as roasted wood pigeon with porcini ravioli, chestnut purée, chard and lentil sauce.
27-29 Union Terrace, Aberdeen (01224 622555), click here to visitwww.pavarottis aberdeen.co.uk
The evening menu features options such as fagottini pasta filled with goats cheese and pear, in a butter, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan and walnut sauce.
La Famiglia Restaurant
111 Cleveden Road, Kelvinside, Glasgow (0141-334 0111), click here to visit www.lafamigliarestaurant.co.uk
Head here for contemporary Italian dishes cooked by Nico Simeone. Dishes include sea bass on fennel, with a broth of mussels, tomato and chilli.